Carolina moon, p.32
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       Carolina Moon, p.32

           Nora Roberts

  "I need you to check his heart rate manually. Just use your hand, gauge his heartbeat for me."

  "It's kind of slow," she said when she pressed down. "But it seems steady. Like, bump, bump, bump."

  "Good, take a look at his eyes."

  "Pupils are awfully big."

  "Any blood in the whites?"

  "No, I don't think so."

  "Okay, he needs some pins in this leg. Bone shattered more than broke. Once that's done I'll close it. Then we'll set the leg.”

  "Is he going to be all right?"

  "He's healthy." Wade used his forearm to wipe his brow. "And he's young. He's got a good chance to keep the leg."

  He worried about the bone chips. Had he gotten them all? There'd been muscle damage, some badly ripped tendons, but he felt confident he'd repaired the worst of it.

  All this ran through one part of his mind while the rest was focused on securing bone with steel.

  "I'll know better in a day or two. I need gauze and tape. That cabinet there."

  Once he'd closed the wound, Wade bandaged and set the leg, then checked the dog's vitals himself. He treated the raw scrape on the muzzle, behind the left ear. "He held up," Wade murmured, then for the first time in over an hour, looked directly at Faith. "So did you."

  "Yeah, well, I was a little queasy at first, then ... " She lifted her hands, started to gesture. They were streaked with blood, as was her blouse. "Oh. Oh my" was all she managed before her eyes rolled back.

  He caught her, barely, then stretched her out on the floor. She was already coming around when he lifted her head and brought a paper cup of water to her lips.

  "What happened?"

  "You fainted, gracefully and at a convenient moment." He brushed his lips over her cheek. "I'll take you upstairs. You can clean up and lie down for a bit."

  "I'm all right." But when he helped her stand, her legs wobbled. "Okay, maybe not. I might be better off flat out for a while longer."

  She dropped her head on his shoulder, half floating as he carried her up. "I don't think I'm cut out to be a nurse."

  "You did great."

  "No, you did. I never thought, never understood why you do what you do. Always figured it as giving out shots and cleaning up dog poop."

  "There's a lot of that."

  He carried her into the bathroom where he could brace her on the sink and run warm water in the bowl. "Just put your hands in here. You'll feel better when they're clean."

  "There's a lot more, Wade, to what you do. And to you." Her eyes met his in the mirror. "I haven't been paying attention, haven't bothered to look close enough. You saved a life today. You're a hero."

  "I did what I was trained to do."

  "I know what I saw, and what I saw was heroic." She turned, kissed him. "Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to strip to the skin and get in the shower."

  "You steady enough?"

  "Yeah, I'm fine. You go check on your patient."

  "I love you, Faith."

  "I think you do," she said quietly. "And it's nicer than I expected. Go on now, my head's still light enough for me to say something I'll regret later."

  "I'll be back up when I can."

  He checked on Mongo first, then cleaned up before stepping out into the examining room. Piney was still in the chair, and now Bee was curled sleeping in his lap.

  Wade had forgotten about both of them.

  "That dog gonna make it?"

  "It looks good."

  "Oh Jesus, Wade. I'm just sick about it. I've been going over it in my head, and if I'd been paying more attention. I was just driving along and my mind was wandering, and next thing I knew that dog jumped right out in the road. Could've been a kid."

  "It wasn't your fault."

  "Hit me a deer a time or two. Don't know why it didn't bother me like this. Mostly I'd just get pissed off. Deer can do a hell of a number on a truck. Some kid's gonna come home from school looking for that dog."

  "I know the owner. I'll give her a call. You getting him here fast made a big difference. That's what you ought to remember."

  "Yeah, well." He sighed hugely. "This little gal's right cute," he said, stroking Bee's head. "She came out here looking for trouble, chewed on my bootlaces for a bit, then she conked right out."

  "I appreciate your looking out for her." Wade reached down and picked her up. Bee yawned hugely, then licked at the cat scratches on his hand.

  “Are you going to be all right?"

  "Yeah. Tell the God's truth, I'm going to go get me a drink. Cade's probably sent out the marines for me by now, but that's just gonna have to wait." He got to his feet. "You let me know how that dog goes on, now, will you?"

  "Sure." He slapped Piney's shoulder as they walked out.

  The waiting room was clear. Wade imagined most of his patients got tired of the delay and left. He could only be grateful for the quiet.

  He set Bee down with one of the dog treats Maxine kept in her desk drawer, then looked up Sherry Bellows's number in his files.

  The answering machine picked up, so he left a message. She'd be out looking for her dog, he supposed. More than likely she'd run into someone who'd seen the accident.

  He left it at that and went back in to Mongo.

  Minutes after Wade talked to Sherry's machine, Tory listened to the same cheery voice announcing she wasn't able to come to the phone. "Sherry, this is Tory at Southern Comfort. I'd like you to call or come by when you get a chance. If you're still interested, you've got a job."

  The decision felt good, Tory thought, as she replaced the receiver. Not only had Sherry's references been glowing, but it might even be fun to have a bright face and willing hands around the shop for a few hours a week.

  Business was slow today, but she wasn't discouraged. It took time to establish yourself, to become part of people's routines. And she'd had a handful of browsers that morning.

  She used the downtime to work out an affordable schedule for her new employee. She got out the forms she'd need to fill out for tax records and added the list of store policies she'd typed.

  She toyed with the wording for an ad in the Sunday paper that would include the linens she'd decided to carry. When her bells chimed, she looked up quickly, with the same bump in the heart she'd experienced at the sound all day.

  But the sight of Abigail Lawrence made her set down her pen and smile. "What a nice surprise."

  "Told you I'd find my way here. Tory, this is just lovely. You have beautiful things." "We have some very talented artists." "And you know just how to display their work." Abigail held out a hand as Tory came around the counter. "I'm going to have a wonderful time spending money here."

  "Don't let me stop you. Can I get you anything? A cold drink, a cup of tea?" "No, not a thing. Oh, is that batik?" Abigail crossed over to admire a framed portrait of a young woman standing on a garden path. "She does wonderful work. I have a few of her scarves in stock as well."

  "I'll have to take a look. I want to see everything. But I can tell you I want this batik. It's perfect for my husband to give me for our anniversary." Amused, Tory turned to lift it from the wall. "And does he want it gift wrapped?" "Naturally." "How long have you been married?" Abigail cocked her head as Tory carried the batik to the counter. In all the time she'd been Tory's lawyer, she never remembered her asking a personal question. "Twenty-six years."

  "So you were married at ten?"

  Abigail beamed, examined a box of polished burl wood. "Shopkeeping agrees with you." She carried the box to the counter herself. "I think this town does, too. You're at home here." "Yes. This is home. Abigail, did you really come up from Charleston to shop?" "That, and to see you. And to talk to you."

  Tory nodded. "If you found out more about the girl who was murdered, you don't have to ease me into it."

  "I didn't learn any more about her. But I did ask my friend to do that check on like crimes, crimes that had taken place during the last two weeks of August."

  "There are othe

  "You already knew."

  "No, felt. Feared. How many more?"

  "Three that fit the profile and time frame. A twelve-year-old girl who went missing during a family trip to Hilton Head in August 1975. A nineteen-year-old coed taking summer classes at the university in Charleston in August 1982, and a twenty-six-year-old woman who'd been camping with friends in Sumter National Forest. August 1989."

  "So many," Tory whispered.

  "All were sexual homicides. Raped and strangled. There was no semen. There was some physical violence, particularly in the facial area. That escalates with each victim."

  "Because their faces aren't right. Their faces aren't hers. Hope's."

  "I don't understand."

  Tory wished she didn't. Wished the sickness of it wasn't so horribly clear. "They were all blondes, weren't they? Pretty, slim builds?"

  "Yes." "He keeps killing her. Once wasn't enough."

  Abigail shook her head, a little concerned at the way Tory's eyes went vague and dark. "It's possible they were killed by the same man, but—"

  "They were killed by the same man."

  "The length of time between the murders deviates from the typical serial-killer profile. So many years between. Now, I'm not a criminal lawyer, and I'm not a psychologist, but I have done some studying up on this subject in the last week or two. The ages of the victims don't fit the standard profile."

  "This isn't standard, Abigail." Tory opened the burl box, closed it again. "It isn't typical."

  "There has to be a basis. Your friend and the twelve-year-old indicate a pedophile. It appears to me a man who chooses children as victims doesn't switch to young women."

  "But he's not switching anything. Their ages have everything to do with it. Every one was the age Hope would have been if she'd lived. That's the pattern."

  "Yes, I agree with you, though neither of us is experts in this area. I suppose I felt obligated to point out the flaws."

  "There may be more."

  "That's being investigated as well, though at this point, my contact assures me, none has been found. The FBI is looking into it." Abigail's pretty mouth firmed. "Tory, my contact wanted to know why I was interested, how I'd learned of the hitchhiker. I didn't tell him."

  "Thank you."

  "You could help."

  "I don't know that I can. Even if they'd let me, I don't know if I'm capable. It freezes me up inside. It was never easy. Always wrenching. And now, I don't want to face that again, to put myself through that again. I can't help them. This is for the police."

  "If that's really how you feel, then why did you ask me to find out?"

  "I had to know."


  "Please don't. Please. I don't want to go back there again. I'm not sure I'd come out whole again this time." To keep her hands busy, she began shifting items on a shelf.

  “The police, the FBI, they're the experts here. This is their job, not mine. I don't want the faces of all those people in my head, what happened to them, inside my head. I already have Hope."


  Coward. The voice whispered the taunt in her ear throughout the rest of the day. She didn't ignore it, she accepted it. And she was going to learn how to live with it.

  She knew what she needed to know. Whoever had killed Hope was still killing, selectively. Efficiently. And it was the job of the police, or the FBI, or some special task force to hunt him down and stop him.

  It was not up to her.

  And if her deepest and most personal fears were realized and that killer had her father's face, could she live with that?

  They would find Hannibal Bodeen soon. Then she would decide.

  When she locked up for the day, she thought it might do her good to walk around town, through the park. She could drop by Sherry's and speak with her instead of her answering machine. Take care of business, Tory reminded herself. Take care of yourself.

  Traffic was light. Most would already be home from work, sitting down to supper. Children had already been called in to wash up, and the evening, long and bright, would stretch out with television and porch sitting, homework and dirty dishes.

  Normal. Everyday. Precious for its simple monotony. And she wanted it for herself with a quiet desperation.

  She cut through the park. Roses were blooming and pools of wax begonias spread in crimson and white. Trees cast long shadows and welcome shade, and a few people sat or stretched under them. Young people, Tory noted, not yet stone-set in the tradition of five-thirty supper. They'd go out for pizza later, or a burger, then flock somewhere with others like them to listen to music or their own voices.

  She'd done the same once, briefly. But it seemed like decades ago. It seemed like another woman entirely who had elbowed her way into a crowded club, to dance, to laugh. To be young.

  She'd already lost all that once. She would not lose the new life she'd just begun.

  Deep in thought, she came out of the line of trees and started across the green slope that led to the apartment building.

  Bee shot across the lawn like a bullet, yapping insanely.

  "You sure get around, don't you?" Charmed, Tory crouched and let herself be attacked.

  "She's been inside most of the day." Faith strolled up, pleased when her pup deserted Tory to leap on her. "She's got a lot of energy."

  "So I see." Tory glanced up, pursed her lips as she straightened. "That's not your usual look," she commented, studying the overlarge T-shirt over Faith's linen slacks.

  "Still works for me, doesn't it? I spilled something on my blouse earlier. Borrowed this from Wade."

  "I see."

  "Yes, I suppose you do. You have a problem with that?"

  "Why should I? Wade's a big boy."

  "I could say something crude about that, but I'll let it pass." Faith skimmed her sleek hair behind her ear, smiled broadly. "Tired of the solitude of the marsh? Going apartment hunting?"

  "No, I like my house. I'm just dropping by to see a potential employee. Sherry Bellows."

  "Well, that's a coincidence. I'm here to see her myself. Wade's still tied up at his office, and he hasn't been able to reach her all day. Her dog was hit by a car late this morning."

  "Oh no." Instantly the reserve fled. "She'll be heartbroken."

  "He's doing all right. Wade went right to work on him. Saved his life." It was said with such pride, Tory could only stare. "He's not sure how well the dog's leg will heal, but I'm betting it'll be right as rain."

  "I'm glad to hear it. He's a beautiful dog, and she seems to love him so much. I can't believe she'd go off for the day and leave him running loose."

  "You just never know about people. Her apartment's there." Faith pointed. "I was around front, but she didn't answer the knock, so I thought I'd poke back here. Her neighbor said she uses this door more than the front."

  "Blinds are closed."

  "Maybe the door's open. We can slip in and leave her a note, anyway. Wade really wants to get ahold of her." She crossed the patio, reached for the handle of the sliding glass door.

  "Don't!" Tory gripped her shoulder, jerked her back.

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